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Whole chicken help

September 13, 2011

At a recent processing day, a few of you admitted to not knowing what to do with a whole chicken. That’s not a huge surprise- we’ve had people express astonishment that a whole chicken can even be purchased! In a day where the boneless/skinless chicken breast reigns supreme, it can seem daunting to cook a whole bird. I remember how I felt a few years ago cooking my first turkey: I followed the Pioneer Woman’s directions to the letter, and it was perfect. But if it hadn’t turned out, I would have wasted a lot of money. That may be how you feel about chicken. If so, let me assure you of the simplicity of it all and give you a few hints. If you are like me, you may end up preferring a whole chicken in the future.

Two easy ways to cook a whole chicken (and a bonus)

1. The Crockpot

There is no easier way to cook a chicken than in the crockpot.  Stuff the insides with onions and season with your favorite herbs and spices. In a pinch (or if I don’t have a lot of time to think or be creative) I just sprinkle it with garlic salt, pepper, and italian seasoning. Turn it on low, and cook it for 7-8 hours. If you plan to use it for dinner, start it in the morning. If you want to use the falling apart tender chicken in a casserole or soup, turn it on at night and it will be ready in the morning for you to put together your meal. Our chickens tend to be larger than the average grocery store chicken, so -dending on the size of your family- a chicken should last between 2-5 meals. I freeze the rest of the cooked chicken meat in portions of 2-3 cups, depending on the meals I plan to make. And don’t forget that on hot summer days, you can always put the crock pot on the back porch. Energy-saving fiends will love you!

2. Oven Roasted Chicken

You will find a thousand recipes online for roasting a whole chicken, but I will give you my favorite here. It’s a long, slow roast in an uncovered dish. In the winter I will probably make this once a week; in the summer I’m not as quick to heat up the house for 5 hours. I don’t know the original source of the recipe, but if it sounds like your great Aunt Mimi’s favorite meal, let me know and I will give her due credit.

Mimi’s Sticky Chicken

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder (which I never have on hand, so I don’t use)
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (I substitute regular pepper here)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 whole roasting chicken
  • 1 onion, chopped (I quarter…I’m lazy)
  1. Rinse chicken inside and out. Drain well.
  2. Rub spice mixture over skin and inside chicken
  3. Place in a resealable plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate overnight. (I’ve forgotten this step, and it was fine…but it’s better when it sits.)
  4. When ready to roast, stuff the cavity with onions.
  5. Place chicken breast side down in pan.
  6. Roast uncovered at 250 degrees (THIS IS NOT A TYPO). Roast for 5 hours. Baste occasionally with pan juices until chicken is golden brown.

This makes a really juicy chicken, and never disappoints! I made it on Sunday, and for our family of 2 adults and 3 children, I only served 1 breast and a thigh/leg quarter. Some of our last chickens were 7 lbs! That will leave me with enough meat for Mexican Chicken Soup tonight, and a little for chicken and black bean quesadillas for lunch. And don’t forget the broth.

3. Whole Chicken Perk- Homemade Broth!

Do NOT throw your chicken bones away (unless you’ve had people gnawing on them…that’s gross). Now before you exit this page and think you are satisfied with your canned/boxed/cubed broth, just stay with me for a second. Previous generations knew the value of the whole chicken (and I won’t get into the parts I haven’t yet learned to use), and bone broth was a staple. It makes everything taste better, and there’s also a reason chicken soup has a healing reputation for the sick. Bone broths are high in protein, and the marrow in the bones is nutritious and beneficial. And it is one of the easiest things to make.

If you used a crockpot to make your chicken, then you will be happy to know you don’t have to wash it yet. After you have taken all the meat off the bones, throw all the bones back in the crockpot. You can also use a stockpot, but the crockpot is practically maintenance free. I like to add some salt, pepper, and any leftover veggies that are either on their last leg (NOT rotting). I also try to keep a gallon bag stocked in the freezer with the ends of carrots, onions, celery, peppers, zucchini- any veggies you like. They would normally be thrown out or composted anyway, so put them to good use. Cover, turn on high and bring to a boil, and then simmer on low for about 24 hours. At some point when the bones have been simmering for at least 8 hours or so, use your kitchen shears to cut all the bones you can in half, to expose the marrow. It will make the broth more gelatinous (and also strengthens the bones of those who will eat it). Strain out everything except the liquid, and place in mason jars to cool. Since I cook a whole chicken almost weekly, I make broth every week and store it in the refrigerator. If you have more than you can use, just freeze it. Make sure you only fill your jar 3/4 of the way full, and if you have the space, lay it on it’s side so the air is more evenly distributed. I’ve never had a jar break following these tips (but I have had jars break from over-filling or freezing upright). Use the broth for soups (we also have soup once a week) cook your rice in it, saute or steam veggies in it. No more will you pay premium prices for organic chicken broth!  Speaking of soup and the Pioneer Woman again, she has an Italian Chicken Soup recipe up today that looks delicious.

Pastured chicken is more expensive than industrialized chicken, but it’s easy to see how you can make up the cost with a little effort. And we think the nutritional benefits are priceless.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lanlan permalink
    September 19, 2011 10:04 pm

    Your Crockpot whole chicken recipe just inspired me. We usually chop the chicken into chunks to make chicken hot pot. The chopping part is a big challenge for me, and Yan is always doing this, athough it is not a super pleasant experience. I am going to try to make a chinese chicken hot pot which a whole chicken in my deep stainless stockpot. I will share you this recipe if it turns out good.

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